Legs, they’re important for running. Essential, actually. But just like a car needs more than wheels to move forward, they’re are plenty of other body parts that effect the way the body moves when we run. While most runners may pay more attention to the lower body, the truth is, the torso deserves just as much attention as our lovely, little legs. Sure, it’s the leg muscles that propel us forward, but if the upper body is stiff and tense, make no mistake, it will affect running form, and not in a good way. Make sure to focus on these four upper body parts when you run and feel yourself float through your workouts freer and faster than ever.
Shoulders: The goal here is to avoid looking like Quasimodo. It’s common to hold tension in the shoulders, which will often cause them to become best buddies with our ears. While running, concentrate on drawing the shoulder blades back and down. You know? Stand up tall like mom would tell you to if she caught you sitting all slouchy and hunched over. Sometimes we dont like to admit it, but Moms are always right and posture is important. Keeping the shoulders away from the ears will help keep the torso upright and allow for better engagement of core muscles, which help protect the lower back and facilitate balance.
Hands: Fists clenched much? What’s with the death grip on your iPod? Increased tension in any part of the body will always result in slower running. Hands are small, I know, but they are not mine… I mean, they still play an important role when it comes to running form. Always pay attention to how they feel. If they’re occupied by a water bottle or a music device, grip it lightly. If they’re free, let the fingers rest ever so slightly on the palms. Every now and then, open up the fists and stretch out each finger. Feel any tension float away and concentrate on your breath and maintaining a stress free pace.
Elbows: Do not flex your arms while running. Worry about giving away tickets to the gun show another time. The hands should not be held up near the shoulders and elbows should be opened up to a 90 degree angle. Focus on relaxing all of the arm muscles. Holding the forearms parallel to the ground will help keep the shoulder blades back and down and will help to release tension from the neck and shoulders. Remember, relaxed is the right way to run.
Neck: Having a tense neck in any ordinary situation is not fun. Having a tense neck while running is just the worst. Relaxing the rest of the body, especially the shoulders and arms will play a huge role in keeping the neck loose. But while running, also concentrate on holding the head high so that your gaze is straight ahead and the chin is not burrowed into the collar bone like an ostriches’ head in the sand.